for Jana Clark, who started it all…a glossy black seed… splinters open the way all things fragment into something fundamental. Either nothing’s sublime, or everything is. Kaitlyn, from her chapbook
I attended the 2013 chapbook publication party. I had to do nothing but attend. It was good to see young teachers carrying on, tweaking a twenty-year tradition to make it their own. Two of the authors were in my first year writing class as 8th graders; four were in others of my classes before I retired. The remaining four never were mine. A school’s memory is subject to rapid turnover: soon I’ll know no one.
Quotes: Arundhati Roy, Carl Sagan, the Bhagavad Gita, Charles Bukowski, Bob Hicok
A chapbook is a paperback booklet, usually of poetry or fiction. Producing one is the culminating project of the creative writing program at Denver School of the Arts. Eligible seniors create collections of their best work, illustrated with art and photography—their own and that of friends, family, and visual arts majors. They include favorite quotes, dedications and goodbyes. Fittingly so: they graduate days after publication.
Photos: sunlight coming through trees, bare branches of winter, oceans, deserts, roses, the New York skyline, crowds in gasmasks, birds in flight, moons
Moonlight spills across her face and makes her skin look like milk…
—Mickayla, from her chapbook
Dedications: to Mom, to Mom and Dad, to sisters and brothers, to family for love and support, to Dad for teaching me to drive a stick shift, to Mom for crying at the end of novels
Independently formed, each book furnishes a clear reflection of its author. That’s been so every year, but I’m always thrilled when it happens again, so one can look at a book and say, this is Indy, Shannon, Natalie, Charlotte.
Drawings: bird skulls, human skulls, pen & ink mermaids with fish skeleton tails, botanical charts of upper cretaceous fossils. Hearts—not the frilly Valentine kind—these are writers—medical cross-section hearts with sliced arteries
Young artists have always preferred their rainbows dripping blood. Examining the somber in your own life is something else. It’s satisfying to find them still doing that too.
We are probably the youngest people on Earth/who will remember the sound of skyscrapers/imploding,/and our generation will be called many names but for me/it will always be three numbers: 9.1.1.
—Sam, from his chapbook
Quotes: Kurt Vonnegut, C.S. Lewis, William Carlos Williams, ee cummings, Barbara Kingsolver, Neruda, Nabokov
Parents bring more food to the potluck than anyone can eat and there’s cake, flowers and balloons: this rite is both a final requirement and a first graduation party. Alumni come, still supportive of their younger former classmates. This love of words is an enduring bond. Sophomores listen in awe to seniors reading and sigh, “I hope I can do a chapbook one day.”
…I want to believe/that if things naturally fall apart/some things are meant/to fall/together.
—Alex, from her chapbook
Dedications to friends: for sharing Russian lit, for being middle school bus buddies, for writing poems and stories together, for art school basketball, for jazz fusion, for helping me with math homework, for being my friend
This is what happens when you put the learning into the learner’s hands, when lessons in collaboration come naturally by working within budget and on deadline with artists and printers. There’s magic in a tangible result you hold in your trembling fingers and read from at a podium, saying, “this is mine, I made this.”
Quotes: The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Isadora Duncan. The “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” speech from Apocalypse Now, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the litany of belief from Bull Durham, and still, after all these years: The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Dedications to teachers: for making me believe in myself again, for dealing with my crap, for never letting me feel like an outsider, for helping me trust men again, for being like a father when mine wasn’t there, for being a mother, sister, friend
Standardized education and testing people, listen: I have seen the results of true education in six to twelve chapbooks a year for twenty years and those results cannot be measured by a test. This is the truth and I tell it slant, name it for you like a poet, the only way I know how.
Images: delicate drawings of jellyfish, photos of spiral staircases, of lodgepole pines being beetle-killed, of bare young backs with poems written across shoulder blades, interiors of old houses, houses falling into ruin
…the walls suddenly halt and meet open sky, startling to we who are used to completion; we are not sheltered here from the endlessness…
—Clarissa, from her chapbook
Quote: the last line from David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, “Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?”
Dedications to friends: for inspiring me, for being my backbone, giving me a reason to go to school every day, for taking this big step toward adulthood with me
To teachers: for making me feel O.K. about being different, for giving me the love of poetry, French, history, literature, for understanding me, for hearing me, for noticingThis is why we say goodbye by holding our words in our hands until they become wrinkled with unspoken conversation and we never let them go. Irene, from her chapbook